On May 29, 2003, despite thousands of comments from parents, teachers, students, and concerned citizens that overwhelmingly opposed the purchase of irradiated food for the National School Lunch Program, the USDA chose to include irradiated ground beef for federal nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program. Irradiated ground beef will be available starting January 2004 and cost 13-20 cents more per pound. Food service directors and school officials in each district can choose whether or not to purchase it for their schools.
Public Citizen, which has taken the public lead in countering FDA’s and USDA’s claim that food irradiation is safe, contacted the food service director of each state and inquired as to whether or not their state would be purchasing irradiated meat this year. Results of their survey follow:
- States that will NOT purchase irradiated meat for their schools this coming year: AK, AR, CT, DC, IN, IA, LA, MA, MD, MI, NM, OK, SD, WI, WY
- States that WILL purchase irradiated meat for their schools this year: NJ
- States that are UNDECIDED on whether they will purchase irradiated meat for their schools this year: AL, HI, ID, IL, MO, MT, NE, NY, TN
- States that will let individual school districts decide: CA, CO, GA, KY, MN, NC, NH, PA, SC, TX, UT, VA
The USDA created an irradiated meat purchase pilot program in three school districts in the state of Minnesota earlier this year. However, the pilot school districts have decided NOT to purchase irradiated meat and dropped out of the pilot program. The USDA stated, “The State of Minnesota decided to drop that phase of the original project plan. The product is not being tested in schools at this time, and there have been no pilot purchases.” This was quite a blow to USDA’s confidence that schools will fall easily into line.
Most school boards will be deciding this fall whether or not to purchase irradiated ground beef for school lunches. They have already received promotional material from the USDA and will receive another mailing sometime next month. We need to counteract this push with a force of our own! Even if your state has indicated that it may not purchase irradiated meat this year, there is no future guarantee. Now is the time to build support and knowledge in your school district about this issue and work with the school board members, food service director, and superintendent to BAN IRRADIATED FOOD FROM YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT!
- Contact Public Citizen at (202) 454-5185 or go to www.safelunch.org for an organizing kit and other materials to get started.
- Hold a Back to School meeting with other interested parents to educate and strategize.
- Share information with your school board members (contact Public Citizen for packets).
- Some school boards are working on adopting overall nutritional standards for school lunches. If your school is working on standards like these, encourage them to include an irradiation ban in the standards. It is easier to pass a ban when it is part of a comprehensive package.
Director, Public Affairs
Weston A. Price Foundation